brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on October 9th, 2020

“I feel like I’m choking.” Paul grasped his throat. “I’m anxious about Covid. I’m fearful of the violence in the streets. I’m tired of the media spewing biased news. Even the spiritual leaders I look up to have turned their voices into rhetoric steeped with political arrogance.” He scratched the back of his neck. “I’ve lost hope.”

“Life is heavy right now.” I leaned toward him. “How about we sit in the quiet for a few minutes and see if God has some wisdom to place upon your heart?”

We closed our eyes and sat in stillness for several moments. The whispers of our breath filled the silence with peace. I wasn’t sure what God might come up with, but I trusted the Spirit would speak.

“The parable of the sower came to mind.” Paul smiled as he sat straighter.  “The world’s chaos, my self-doubt, and worry are the weeds strangling me.”

“What are you in the parable?” I asked. “There’s the weeds, the sower, the seed, and the soil. Which of those are you?”

“I’d like to think I’m the good soil. I’m open to letting God sow his wisdom in me so I can offer love and hope to others. But I need divine help to get past my fears.”

Paul continued talking through the parable. He recalled how the world was filled with terror and conflict during Jesus’ time on earth. The Romans oppressed the Jews. Many of the religious and political leaders were hypocrites living an elite life while preaching spiritual laws but failing to follow them. It was a time wrought with fear and anger. In the midst of it all, Jesus stirred the chaos by preaching the law of love and challenging the elite and powerful.

“I guess we’ve survived lots of tough times,” Paul said as he pondered history. “We went through Vietnam, 9/11, the measles, a polio epidemic, and we survived. We came out stronger. God’s never given up on us. I need to open my heart and let the Creator pour more grace on my soul so the world’s weeds don’t choke out the divine nutrients of love and hope.”

A smile on his face and the glimmer in his eyes told me God and Paul were working through his lament.

Lamenting’s Good for the Soul

As King David modeled throughout the Psalms, lamenting is a vital part of spiritual growth. We take our angst to God—we start by shaking our fists and naming our frustrations. Then we progress to asking for divine help. And finally, we receive the Spirit’s loving guidance. That’s how we move from fear to love.

In Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy—Discovering the Grace of Lament, Mark Vroegop reminds us that the art of lamenting is a doorway to inner peace and growth.

As we finished our chat, Paul’s voice reverberated once again with divine strength. “I won’t choke. I am good soil.”

—brian j plachta


by brian j plachta on October 1st, 2020

People often ask, “How do I move beyond mere intellectual knowledge about God and experience God?” Put another way, “If God is real, how does the Divine communicate with me?”

Paul Smith, author of Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve, offers a path to an ever-deepening experience of God. By focusing on four centers of spiritual knowing that God has gifted us with, Smith says we can move beyond mere intellectual knowledge about God and experience a real relationship with God—the same type of relationship Jesus had with his Father while on earth. Like Jesus, through quiet meditation and times of being alone with God, we can experience direct and divine Presence in our lives.

The four spiritual centers Smith suggests we focus on as an entryway into a deeper experience of God are these:

• The Heart. The heart is the radiant center of the loving presence of God. When we focus on being present to God and ourselves in our heart-space, we can experience a deep connection with the energy of love found there. Some say our soul is a small glowing light in our hearts. The warmth we feel when we place our hands on our chest near our heart is literally the Light of Christ within us. It’s not so much being aware of your heart, but being aware from your heart. In the heart, we experience the Divine love of the Beloved.

• The Gut.  Have you ever heard someone say they have a “gut instinct”? It’s true, because the gut is the source of intuition, creativity, and courage. It’s the place of our True Self in God—where we realize we are made in the image and likeness of the Creator.  It’s like a spiritual womb where God is constantly creating us. There we can access our deepest identity of God Being One within Us. We might say we’re pregnant with God and God’s incarnating the Divine in and through us.

• The Feet.  Like the roots of a tree that dig deep into the soil, our feet are the part of the body that grounds us. When we place our feet flat on the floor and notice the strength and stability they provide, this grounding draws us back to the present moment. In spiritual practice and throughout a busy day, we sometimes fly high off into the clouds. By focusing on our feet, we reconnect with ourselves. Placing our feet on the floor or earth brings us back to the here-and-now. We literally, “Find our feet.” We can then draw the energy from the earth up into the rest of our body to recharge ourselves.

• The Mind.  The typical language of our head is thought. The head is probably the most familiar to all of us. But to experience deeper spiritual knowing we have to reach deeper than just our normal, mental thoughts. We need to clear our minds to be open to receiving God’s wisdom. The best way to do that is to first access the heart-space. Getting in touch with the radiating heart-energy of warmth and love can produce deep peace. We can then move from the heart to the head with a clearer mind because of the power of the radiating heart. It’s as if the mind is a glass filled with water, calmed by the connection with the loving heart. When the mind is cleared, God’s wisdom can speak to us. We might hear a simple loving word or phrase. An image or metaphor may arise. We can even enjoy a gentle and loving conversation with God, all of which, if grounded in love, we can trust is a gift from the Creator.

To experience the mind-body-spirit connection, click on the link below and enjoy a twelve-minute guided meditation.

Open your heart, feel your gut, find your feet, let your mind connect with your heartspace.

Experience God’s wisdom as your mind, body, and spirit connect with the Divine.

Mind-Body-Spirit Meditation Link

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on September 24th, 2020

What if you had an inner guide planted deep inside of you? Whenever you had a question, needed affirmation, or wanted someone or something to show you the way, what if there was a place inside of you that you could consult?

You do have a source of wisdom. We all do. It’s our soul. It’s planted in our hearts like a computer chip.  All we have to do is listen and seek our soul’s divine guidance.

At the end of his earthly life, Jesus promised he’d send us the Holy Spirit—the Advocate—who’d teach us everything, including how to live (John 14:26).

As a result, God gave us an on-board computer that’s part of our DNA. The soul—embedded in our human hearts—connects us with God’s Divine Heart. And with practice, we can learn the art of listening to our souls.

In the article, Listening When the Soul Speaks, Emily Madill, writes, “I believe we all have inner wisdom and a guidance system that will help steer us on the best path that sits well with who we are. It’s an inherent trait.”  

Madill offers these suggestions to help us listen to our inner GPS:

1. Get Quiet.  Give yourself the gift of shutting off the world for at least 10 minutes each day. Befriend silence. Rest in it as you create the inner space to listen to your soul.

2. Be Playful. Use your imagination during your quiet time. Let God’s wisdom speak to you. Have fun with the Creator as your heart becomes your Divine guide.

3. Take Action. When your soul gives you loving guidance, take baby steps to integrate the wisdom into your life. Our hearts are always leading us, and eventually, our feet catch up.

If you’d like to practice the HeART of listening to your soul, click on the link below to experience a six minute meditation.  

Let your heart and soul guide you for the rest of your life.

Listen to Your Soul Meditation

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on September 18th, 2020

Imagine, for a moment, what the Apostle John may have experienced at the end of the Last Supper when Jesus invited him to sit and rest his head against his chest.  

What went through John’s mind as he relaxed next to Jesus? Could he feel Jesus’ heart beat? Did he hear the whisper of Jesus’ breath flowing in and out of his lungs? Did John feel safe, loved, embraced?

Through the gift of our imaginations, we can experience the same emotions John felt. We can experience being embraced by God.

The Practice of Imaginative Prayer

In Meeting God through Your Imagination, Christine Warner reminds us it’s okay to use the gift of our creative minds to draw closer to God. St. Ignatius, she writes, invites us to engage our imaginations and senses to experience divine presence.

For Ignatius, meditation is not only about freeing our minds; it’s also about drawing us into an ever-deepening relationship with the Creator through images, metaphors, storytelling, and sensation.

God gifted us with imagination. Therefore, we can explore this divine gift to tap into an intimate experience of the Creator’s loving relationship with us.

Letting the Word Become Our Flesh

One way to enter into imaginative prayer is to take a Gospel story and place yourself in it. First, figure out who is present. Then, select one character and pretend you’re that person. What does it feel like to be there in the flesh, as a character in the story?

As you enter into this meditation practice, engage all five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Immerse yourself in the story. Where, exactly, are you? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? Is it hot, cold, windy? What emotions do you experience?

Continue to experience the scene, going deeper in your imagination.

This exercise places us in the divine narrative of the Gospel as it becomes our story.

Embraced—a Meditation Practice

If you’d like to experience the gift of imaginative prayer, click on the link below and listen to the two minute meditation.  Allow yourself to be embraced by God.

Embraced--A Meditation for You. Click here to experience this two minute mediation.

Savor the emotions you experience and take them with you into your day.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on September 11th, 2020

During his forty days of prayer and fasting as depicted in the blockbuster movie, Last Days in the Desert,  Jesus meets a young boy struggling to free himself from the inner voices that keep telling him he is bad. Eventually, the boy gathered the wisdom and courage to shout, “I’m not a bad son!” Those words freed him from the haunting inner voices of shame and doubt. As a result, the boy was able to fully give and receive love.

Many of my spiritual direction clients (myself included) often struggle with the same self-image problems the boy battled in the movie. That pit of self-doubt drowns us in the quicksand of shame stopping us from letting God love us. We get booby-trapped in the false belief we don’t deserve the gift of God’s unconditional love.

Why is it so hard to let God love us as we are, here and now, unconditionally? Who told us we were bad, so that now we place our hands over our ears and run from ourselves and those damning voices?

God did not teach us that falsehood. God is love, not some Brutus who’s ready to condemn us if we step out of line.

That is not who God is. That is not the One who created us in the image of Divine Love.

Like the boy in the movie, we too must stand tall and shout, “I am not a bad person!” We must proclaim those words. Rebuke the falsehoods of shame and doubt that stone our hearts. We must gather the courage and wisdom to open ourselves to the truth letting the river of compassion flow through us allowing us to proclaim, “I am good. I am loved. I am the image of Divine Love.”

As we rediscover who we are, we open our hearts to hear the Creator whisper the words, “I love you.” Then we can whisper back, “I love you too.”

To practice the art of letting God love you, click on the podcast/meditation link below and receive the gift of unconditional love from our Creator.  

 three minute love you prayer meditation

---brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on September 2nd, 2020

When the apostles went to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray, they observed how Jesus went into solitude each day to be alone with his Father (Luke 11: 1-13).

Jesus gained wisdom, guidance, and affirmation from his Father, which flowed naturally into his daily life. Contemplation gave him God’s Wisdom and the strength to carry out his life’s purpose. Through this daily practice he found inner peace and guidance.

Jesus modeled for us the human need to find balance between contemplation and action. If we don’t take time each day to sit in the Quiet with God—to listen and connect our hearts with the Holy Spirit—we risk becoming the noisy gongs scripture warns against.

When we do follow Jesus’ pattern (and the other Saints and wise men and women who did so) and spend time each day alone with God, we slowly begin to notice changes in our lives. Our relationship with God deepens. It becomes personal, experiential, and real. We learn discernment—our souls discover  how to listen to the silent voice of God, who communicates with us personally through the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

The Western world threw Contemplation out with the Enlightenment. Thomas Merton and Father Thomas Keating taught that it’s the missing piece in our culture’s spiritual formation.
However, as we continue to yearn for that ever-deepening connection with God in our noisy world, the Holy Spirit invites us to return to the ancient tradition of contemplation. Through this daily experience, we discover the inner peace and guidance we need to live with joy and love.

It’s all about relationship

For any relationship to grow, we must spend time nurturing it. Quality time when we talk—and when we listen. Our relationship with God is no different. Maybe we know how to talk to God. But how do we listen?

There are no right or wrong ways to practice meditation/contemplation.

 It’s simply creating quiet space and solitude for God in our daily lives so our relationship with the Creator grows and we learn to understand how the Spirit is moving in our lives and how we’re responding to that movement.

Over the next several weeks, I’d like to offer you a smorgasbord of time-tested prayer practices so you can taste each one and choose which is most life-giving for you.  There will be a short introduction to the practice and then a YouTube Podcast you can click on to experience it.

Find Your Center

This week, let’s focus on Centering Prayer. With this practice, you’re invited to choose a word or short phrase as a mantra to center yourself the way an anchor moors a boat in wavy water. When your mind drifts, which it will often do, simply come back to the word or phrase to rediscover the stillpoint within you.

Centering Prayer is one way to tame constant mind chatter so we can enjoy inner peace and quiet. It’s a gentle discipline that allows us to calm our minds and open our hearts so we can listen for the Creator’s wisdom and guidance. Centering Prayer invites us to simply rest in God.

The practice has become increasingly popular since the 1970s when Father Thomas Keating and others re-introduced it into the United States through the international organization Contemplative Outreach. 

Centering Prayer’s roots dig back to the third century when it was practiced widely by desert fathers and mothers—those men and women who left the noise and chaos of the city to live in caves so they could seek wisdom and solitude.  St. Benedict also incorporated Centering Prayer as a foundational daily practice for his monks as they sought to create a balanced rhythm of life.

May you find your Center—the Stillpoint within—as you practice Centering Prayer.

Click on the YouTube link below and InJoy!

Centering Prayer Meditation Podcast

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on August 28th, 2020

In our Christian tradition and perhaps in other faith traditions, we’ve lost sight of the “practices” that allow us to experience the presence of God in mind, body, and spirit. Just like we go for walks to exercise our bodies, stretch our muscles or work-out to help maintain physical health, so too our spiritual muscles need practice-based exercises to allow us to connect with the presence of God, to stretch us so we can experience mind, body, and spirit the Divine Light and Love that lives within and through us.

Aaron Niequist in The Eternal Current—How a  Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning says his faith stopped working when he got stuck into trying to think his way into wholeness. His intellect alone wasn’t enough to deepen his relationship with God and live from his authentic self. To get unstuck, he discovered we’re invited to move beyond spiritual observation and information into divine participation through practices that let us experience the Presence of God.

The Finding Flow book I’m writing is all about what I call “doable spiritual practices”—real-life exercises you can do to reclaim inner peace, balance, and wholeness because that’s what God wants for us—the Creator wants us to be happy, to participate in a life filled with love and guided by wisdom.

This week, I’ve prepared a twelve minute podcast you can listen to and download as a way of practicing the presence of God.

Inspired by the writings of Luke Healy of the Integral Christian Network, I prepared the podcast hoping you’ll click on the link below, sit back, and listen as you allow yourself to practice the Presence of God.  InJoy!

Click Here to Listen to Podcast

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on August 18th, 2020

When chaos
grips my heart
with ungodly fear

When life
overwhelms me
with waves of despair

I ask a simple question
to coax anxiety
off its ledge


Do I have enough food to eat?
a shelter to rest in?
people who love me
and whom I love?

My answer is yes
I am

Despite political upheaval
nature’s storms
and a pandemic crisis

I have food
and loved ones

Not everyone
can answer
that question yes

Not everyone has food
Some sleep in doorways
Or under bridges

Some have lost
all those
who love them



This reality
the question

Instead of
Am I safe?
I vow to ask

Can I exchange
my fear
for gratitude?

Can I help
Someone else find
Their daily bread?

—-brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on August 11th, 2020

When you listen
the soft coo
of the mourning dove
reveals the beauty of life

Drops of dew
on blades of grass
sparkle light
into your soul

Water lapping
on the lake
slows your pace
restores your rhythm

When you listen
dawn reveals
the answers
to your problems

The crow’s caw
speaks wisdom
and you know
what you need to do

When you listen
silence becomes your friend
you no longer need
to run from yourself

you understand
life’s wisdom
can only be learned
in the silence

When you listen
the Creator
you are good

In the silence
your soul is fed
with endless gifts
of love

When you listen
you realize  
something deep
and mysterious

something sacred
is taking place in your life
right here
right now

and the more attentive
you become
the more you
see and understand it

When you listen
your heart
and soul
lead the way

Your feet catch up
to the One Life
you’ve only imagined
could be yours

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on August 8th, 2020

What if you were peter
in the boat
with the others

tossed and battered
wind howling
waters raging

it’s not just this storm
you know
it’s every turmoil  
you’ve endured

life has beaten

you hunker down
into the hull of a wooden boat
that crashes upon the sea
as life’s waves slap hope out of you

in desperation
you stand
gaze upon the waters
wondering if
there’s a break in the storm

then you see the One
the outstretched hand
the loving eyes fixed upon yours

you hear the Voice
calling your name

what if you were peter
in that moment
in that boat
with that choice?

the one we all must make

do I stay in the pit of fear and despair
or take a risk the Divine Hand
that stretches toward me is not a ghost
not a figment of my imagination?

it is real

the Creator reaches
through the sea of my life
to touch and heal

to help me walk on water

would you take the Hand?
would you get out of the boat?
would you keep your eyes fixed
on the One who loves you?

would you
push past fear
claim your courage
and let your heart cry out, “save me”?

we are all peter
we all have the same choice

do we sink?


do we
grasp the
saving Hand
entrust our lives
to the Divine
to the One
who seeks to embrace
and guide us?

what if you were peter?

would you get out of the boat?

—-brian j plachta

poetry (4)
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